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Published: Wednesday, January 03, 2018 @ 9:01 AM
Updated: Wednesday, January 03, 2018 @ 9:00 AM
WASHINGTON — Acknowledging his push to broker peace in the Middle East has stalled, President Donald Trump appeared to threaten to cut off U.S. aid money to the Palestinian Authority, asking why the U.S. should make "any of these massive future payments" when the Palestinians are "no longer willing to talk peace."
Trump, in a pair of tweets, said "we pay the Palestinians HUNDRED OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS a year and get no appreciation or respect."
"They don't even want to negotiate a long overdue ... peace treaty with Israel," he wrote.
Trump infuriated Palestinians and Muslims across the Middle East when he announced late last year that the U.S. would consider Jerusalem the capital of Israel and move its embassy there, upending decades of U.S. policy and igniting protests.
While the Palestinians haven't closed the door to a potential deal with Israel, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas said the announcement had destroyed Trump's credibility as a Mideast peace broker, calling the decision "a declaration of withdrawal from the role it has played in the peace process."
Senior Palestinian leader Hanan Ashrawi said in a statement Wednesday that Trump had "singlehandedly destroyed the very foundations of peace" with his Jerusalem declaration.
Tuesday's tweets are a tacit admission by Trump that his decision to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem has thrown a wrench into his administration's plans to restart the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians, which he had dubbed "the ultimate deal."
Trump tasked son-in-law Jared Kushner with restarting the effort, and brought his former attorney, Jason Greenblatt, into the White House to lead the negotiations. Trump's Mideast peace team had held meetings with Israeli, Palestinian and Arab leaders for nearly a year ahead of an expected peace proposal.
But by recognizing Israel's claim to Jerusalem, Trump was seen by the Palestinians as siding with Israel on the most sensitive issue in the conflict. The Palestinians seek east Jerusalem — which Israel captured in 1967 — for their capital.
Trump said his decision merely recognized the reality that Jerusalem already serves as Israel's capital and wasn't meant to prejudge the final borders of the city.
In his tweets, Trump argued his decision had taken "Jerusalem, the toughest part of the negotiation, off the table, but Israel, for that, would have had to pay more."
When Trump declared Jerusalem to be Israel's capital, he insisted, counterintuitively, that the move would improve, not hurt, prospects for clinching a peace deal.
In the days after the decision, Trump administration officials said the strategy was based on the notion that Israel had lost faith in the U.S. as a committed partner during the Obama administration. With trust in Washington restored, Benjamin Netanyahu's government would be more inclined going forward to make tough concessions that would ultimately be needed for a peace deal, the U.S. officials argued at the time, and Israeli officials quietly indicated that they could potentially do so.
No one spelled out, however, what the Palestinians would receive in return.
Trump on Tuesday also issued a threat to cut off foreign aid dollars to an unspecified list of countries that don't reciprocate.
"It's not only Pakistan that we pay billions of dollars to for nothing, but also many other countries, and others," Trump wrote, appearing to reference a Jan. 1 tweet lambasting Pakistan for failing to do enough to combat terror groups while taking U.S. aid. "No more!" Trump had tweeted Monday.
Trump's language marks a striking departure from decades of bipartisan American practice and reflects Trump's transactional view of global affairs. U.S. leaders of both parties have long utilized foreign assistance dollars — a minor percentage of the overall budget — to promote American interests abroad, alleviate humanitarian crises and support oppressed peoples.
Trump's envoy to the United Nations, U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley, foreshadowed Trump's warning earlier Tuesday at the U.N. Security Council. Haley said the president doesn't want to give more funds "until the Palestinians are willing to come back to the negotiation table."
"We still very much want to have a peace process. Nothing changes with that. The Palestinians now have to show they want to come to the table," Haley said. "As of now, they're not coming to the table, but they ask for aid. We're not giving the aid. We're going to make sure that they come to the table."
Since a Dec. 21 U.N. vote condemning Trump's Jerusalem decision, U.S. officials have been weighing various options for retaliating against the Palestinians for pushing the resolution, which passed by a 128-9 margin.
Those options, which were to be discussed by Trump's top national security aides at a meeting next week, included several involving cutting off some or all aid to the Palestinian Authority. Another option would cut funding to the U.N. agency that provides services to the Palestinians in places like Gaza, Jordan and Lebanon.
The talks are in their very early stages, with no determination yet of a fixed amount or percentage of assistance to be cut, according to officials familiar with the discussions.
However, the officials noted that only a relatively small amount of the more than $220 million that the U.S. was planning to send to the Palestinians in the current budget year actually goes to the Palestinian Authority. Most of that assistance flows to non-governmental groups that are involved in building civic organizations that promote good governance, anti-corruption efforts, and health and education projects.
The officials said one possibility would be to redirect aid from the Palestinian Authority to those groups. Similar proposals were envisioned for the U.N. relief agency for Palestinians, the officials said, noting that Palestinian children in Gaza, Jordan and Lebanon would be disproportionally affected by an immediate and complete cut-off.
Chris Gunness, a spokesperson for the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East, said it had not been informed of any changes to U.S. funding at this time.
One basket of money that is unlikely to be affected is security assistance that helps the Palestinian Authority coordinate police cooperation with Israel, the officials said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about internal deliberations.
Published: Friday, January 19, 2018 @ 11:35 AM
PALM BEACH, Fla. — President Donald Trump will not make a planned trip to Mar-a-Lago today because of a looming federal government shutdown, a White House official told The Palm Beach Post on Friday morning.
Trump was scheduled to arrive at Palm Beach International Airport tonight for a weekend trip that included a Saturday fundraiser for his 2020 re-election campaign at Mar-a-Lago. The official who confirmed today’s travel is off did not address the president’s plans for the remainder of the weekend.
Trump was planning to make the 12th Palm Beach visit of his presidency. But Congress has not reached a spending agreement to keep the federal government operating past midnight.
Published: Tuesday, January 16, 2018 @ 5:16 PM
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is in excellent health and likely to finish his term in office without any medical issues, a presidential doctor said Tuesday at a news conference, four days after the president underwent a physical exam.
“The president's overall health is excellent," White House physician Dr. Ronny Jackson said Tuesday.
Here are six things to know about the results of the president’s physical:
Jackson: ‘He had great findings across the board’
Trump is in “very, very good health,” Jackson said Tuesday.
“(I have) no concerns for his heart health,” the presidential physician said. “There are many good things that came from his exam, I think he had great findings across the board. “
Jackson said Trump’s good health is likely to last through “the remainder of this tern, and even for the remainder of another term, if he’s elected.” He said he based his assessment on the president’s cardiac results.
“He falls into a category that portends years of event-free living,” Jackson said. “He has incredibly good genes, and that’s just the way God made him.”
White House doctor says despite President Trump's fast food habit and lack of exercise, he's in "excellent" condition; "He has incredibly good genes, and it's just the way God made him" https://t.co/fpNP3Hpnco pic.twitter.com/VGoTFSgp7C— CNN (@CNN) January 16, 2018
Cognitive screening showed no issues
Jackson said he conducted a cognitive screening on Trump at the president’s request, although he felt the test was unnecessary.
“I’ve spent almost every day in the president’s presence,” said Jackson, whose office is near Trump’s. “I’ve got to know him pretty well and I had absolutely no concerns about his cognitive ability or neurological functions.”
He said that in all his conversations with Trump, the president has been “very articulate.”
“I’ve never known him to repeat himself around me,” Jackson said. “He says what he wants to say and speaks his mind.”
Infamous slurred speech incident might have been caused by medication
A December incident in which the president sounded as though he was slurring his speech while announcing a policy shift in Israel was probably due to a medication, Jackson said.
“We evaluated him, we checked everything out and everything was normal,” Jackson said, adding that the incident was likely caused because the president needed water.
He said prior to the Dec. 7 incident, he gave Trump Sudafed, which might have “inadvertently dried up his secretions.”
Trump working to lose 10-15 pounds
At 6-foot-3 and 239 pounds, the president has a body mass index of 29.9, just under the number that would designate him as obese, according to information released Tuesday.
“The president, he and I talked and... I think a reasonable goal over the next year or so is (to lose) 10 or 15 pounds,” Jackson said, adding that a nutritionist would be meeting with White House chefs in the coming weeks and that Trump would be put on an exercise routine.
“He’s more enthusiastic about the diet,” Jackson said.
Jackson not concerned about Trump’s stress levels
Despite concerns from the public and reports that have painted a chaotic White House, Jackson said that he has no concerns about the president’s stress levels.
“I talk to him sometimes about stress just because I think it’s my job as his physician to bring it up on occasion,” he said. “I’ve never seen the president stressed out too much. ... He has a unique ability to push the reset button and he just gets up and he starts a new day. (I think it’s) made him healthier from a stress standpoint.”
Jackson did not test Trump’s hearing
Published: Tuesday, January 16, 2018 @ 11:57 AM
WASHINGTON — Special counsel Robert Mueller has subpoenaed President Donald Trump’s former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, to testify before a grand jury as part of the ongoing investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election and its possible ties to the Trump campaign, The New York Times reported Tuesday.
SCOOP: Mueller has subpoenaed Steve Bannon to testify before a grand jury as part of the ongoing Russia investigation. First person in Trump's inner circle known to have received a grand jury subpoena. https://t.co/dbKWuDjdMp— Michael S. Schmidt (@nytmike) January 16, 2018
Published: Friday, January 12, 2018 @ 11:19 AM
WASHINGTON — Steve Bannon, President Donald Trump’s former chief strategist, will testify before the House Intelligence Committee next week in its probe of alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, according to multiple reports.
An unidentified source told Reuters on Thursday that the interview will take place Tuesday behind closed doors. It will focus on Bannon’s time as Trump’s campaign chief and not on his time in the White House, according to Reuters.
In preparation for the interview, Bannon hired Washington attorney Bill Burck to represent him, NBC News reported Friday. Burck was previously hired to represent former White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and White House counsel Donald McGhan in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election and its possible ties to the Trump campaign, according to Law360.
Burck is representing Bannon only before the committee and not in Mueller’s probe, NBC News reported.
Trump named Bannon, the former chairman of the conservative news website Breitbart News, as his campaign chief in August 2016. After his inauguration, Trump appointed Bannon to fill the newly created position of White House chief strategist.
He left the Trump administration in August 2017, almost exactly one year after joining Trump’s presidential campaign.
Days before his exit, Bannon faced scrutiny for an interview he did with the liberal magazine The American Prospect, contradicting the president's warnings to North Korea of "fire and fury" in response to threats. Tension between the pair intensified last week after Bannon was quoted in journalist Michael Wolff’s controversial tell-all book “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House.”
Bannon told Wolff he thought a meeting set up by the president’s son, Donald Trump Jr., with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya and others in June 2016 was “treasonous” and “unpatriotic.” Trump slammed Bannon in a statement after the comments were made public, saying, “When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind.”
Bannon later apologized for the comments.
Bannon announced Tuesday that he would be leaving Breitbart News for the second time in two years.
"You have not heard the last from me," he wrote in a Twitter post announcing his departure.
I am proud of what we have achieved with Breitbart News. As I now step down I leave at a world-class news platform that has come a long way but has really just begun it’s mission. And you have not heard the last from me, new announcements coming up soon!#MAGA— Steven Bannon (@SteveKBannon) January 9, 2018